Thursday, January 23, 2014

An angel called ….His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin

On a personal note…

Friday the 17th of January 2014 the world witnessed the sad demise of His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (RA). He was the 52nd ‘Dai-ul-Mutlaq’ (the absolute and unrestricted Missionary) of the Dawoodi Bohra community. (Ref: )

Since then the world also witnessed the solar lull where the sun seemed to have fallen asleep at a time when it should have been awash with activity. (Ref: ) "I've been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I've never seen anything quite like this," said Richard Harrison, head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. A red moon was sighted in parts of the globe while the social media was abuzz with India receiving freak January rains. For many this could be termed as a baffling phenomenon, a rare occurrence or an unusual incidence. For others perhaps it could just be a mere co-incidence. Not for her!
For her, an ordinary follower from the extraordinary million plus population of the Dawoodi Bohra community, it was no surprise. For the heavens and the earth mourned the passing away of a deeply spiritual and benevolent leader, a symbol of peace, prosperity, goodwill and humanity, a ‘Maula’ beyond imagination.

His role in evolving humanity and social order are unsurpassable. His contributions towards restoring historical sites and mausoleums, building housing communities as well as constructing world class healthcare facilities are just a few of the mammoth gifts to mankind. During his era he constructed more than 200 magnificent mosques, extending the Dawoodi Bohra footprint to new heights across urban and rural skylines. Furthermore under his generous reign he provided unimaginable facilities at holy shrines as well as during the difficult yet beloved pilgrimage of Hajj. Among his major contributions was to supervise and support the community's literacy efforts through 400 educational institutions in the world to impart religious, spiritual and secular education. With a view to foster healthy businesses, he institutionalized the Quranic concept of interest free loans. He was a spiritual leader who interpreted the wisdom of the ages for a rapidly modernizing world without diluting the essence of religion. (Ref: )
No amount of words could do justice to his accolades, achievements or demeanor. Neither could any words encompass the high values and pristine principles by which he led his life and shaped the character and souls of his devotees. She wasn’t about to attempt the impossible either. Today, 5 days after the dreadful day, all she wanted to do was bow down in reverence, tears streaming down her face as she recalled a dream which changed her life.

It was a lonely new year’s dawn when she woke up with an unforgettable dream. Mostly you have dreams which you struggle to recall the next morning, if you’re lucky you remember bits and pieces. Not this one. This one she remembered from start to finish. Like she had never slept through it. In it His Holiness and she were seated across each other. She was kneeling in front of him, hands folded, emotionally sharing her woes and wishes. His Holiness had distinctly told her, “After me, you will meet Abdulla.” “After me, you will meet Abdulla.” “After me, you will meet Abdulla.” Distinctly - three times.  As if shaken out of her slumber she woke up to look at the clock; it was close to 6 am. Wanting not to forget a single moment of this puzzling dream she immediately called her mother and related the entire vision. Who is Abdulla?! Why Abdulla?! Where can I find Abdulla?! These were some of the questions they obsessed over and finally hung up the phone with her mother promising to find out. Perhaps it could be someone from his immediate family or a learned priest he wanted her to go to for guidance or maybe one of the devoted attendants who were always with him could lead to more answers. Two weeks passed with no luck. Her mother left no stone unturned whilst constantly trying to find a face named Abdulla. There was none. Finally giving up; the routine of life took over.
Exactly a month later, over the synchronization of some bizarre events and (what seemed as) a chance encounter she met a man over coffee. Within months they were married. His name was Abdulla!

Now you may stop here to wonder in amazement… For she often prayed for a suitable life partner and like a divine plan unfolding; there he was.

Though; this is hardly as astonishing as the fact that every member of the Dawoodi Bohra community will have at least one, if not more of such miracles to share. The numbers of lives that have been touched by the grace of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin are unfathomable. He was the first thought at all times of joy and sorrow; the final authority in all matters whether temporal or spiritual. That they believe and have complete faith that he will continue to live in the hearts of the millions spread all over the world is a given. That they see a replica of him in his son and successor Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin (TUS), as the 53rd ‘Dai-ul-Mutlaq’ is a blessing to be acknowledged and cherished. (Ref: )
In him, with him and through him, the 102 year old legacy of Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (RA) lives on!

Notes from my desk: Belief and faith: these are of paramount importance in one’s life. Belief is usually in the mind, whereas faith is in the heart.  The marriage of these two can move mountains. One cannot undermine the significance of the same on the human psyche. Jesse Jackson says, “If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, you can achieve it.” I would like to take that a step forward by saying, “If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it; if the divine can bless it and the Lord can will it; you can achieve it!”


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Age no bar!

It was close to midnight as the aircraft screeched onto the runway at Dubai airport. First transit point, United Arab Emirates. Her second home! After the many years spent here she was totally thrilled to land on familiar ground.
Earlier, whilst inflight an elderly gentleman sitting next to her had requested for help with immigration and other formalities as they were both headed to India on the same connecting flight.
As she settled into the lounge and gulped a glass of fresh orange juice her fingers were twitching to get onto the phone. She had so many friends that she wanted to call. She excused herself from the gentleman, “I’ll be a bit busy on the phone for a while.” She wished he would have at least sat at another table… “Phew! I agreed to help but some people – they just pile on,” she thought to herself as she dialed on. The gentleman graciously brought some snacks over while she was busy chatting away. The phone calls never stopped. She called some and many got the news of her transit halt and called her. It was like a forest fire…. conversations were alive, rich and full of crackles of laughter. “Oh! How I miss my friends”, she told him as he obediently sat in silence. She quickly walked over to replenish a fresh portion of finger food and even while picking from the lavish selection, her mind was ticking. Ticking on who to call next? She quickly dialed the number 0097156…Just then the UAE telecommunications decided to be the party pooper… “You have insufficient credit to make this call, please add credit in order to….  Oh no! Umm what to do… “I’ll ask a friend to transfer me some credit,” she said out loud. That’s when the gentleman reached out and gave her his phone. “Here use this; I have quite a bit on this one.” Sigh of relief, “Are you sure?! Gee! Thanks so much”, she excitedly reached out for his phone. All the numbers were etched in her mind, like permanent water marks. She wished this time would never end as she smiled and giggled, shared and laughed out loud. She was totally one with herself, connecting with old friends, her true friends. “After a certain age it’s so difficult to make real friendships,” she recalled a spinster aunt say.
It was well past 2 a.m. when she hung up. “Cool, I think I’ve spoken to all of them!” “I really appreciate this Sir. Thank you once again”, she said as she returned the phone. “No thank you’s required”, he said, with his eyes brimming over. “What happened, are you ok?” she asked startled with concern. “Yes”, he said. “It brought back memories as I watched you talk to your friends. How your smile light up your eyes, your laughter is infectious and your conversations insatiable; they’re truly lucky to have you.” "I too had so many friends back in those days. Now most of them have moved on…” he sarcastically chuckled on. “You can’t call up there you see,” he sullenly stated, pointing to the heavens.
They talked into the night thereafter about friends and friendships, of times gone by and yet to come. Of people and places and different faces. It was captivating and enthralling as he shared his stories of places he’d been to, people he’d met and things he’d seen….so much so that the onward flight announcement seemed like an outright disturbance.
As she collected their things off the table she couldn’t take her eyes off him. Handbags, mobiles and strollers’ in tow they headed out to the gate. In that moment as she walked alongside this frail man, she looked up at him. This time she saw someone else. She saw a friend.
Notes from my desk: ‘Age no bar’ is the mantra for friendships. It’s never too early or too late to make friends. Or with whom and where.
Old is gold and forever shall be. New gems though are rare to find. Stop…right now…and notice them. Allow them to touch your life. Choose to touch theirs.
Today I chose to make a new friend.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Shhh! That’s taboo….!!!

It was weeks later when she was returning home from a grueling session at the gym that she remembered she had to make a cursory call to her doctor to check on the biopsy result for a tiny boil on her hand which just wouldn’t go. She had got it removed the previous week and the doctor had advised biopsy on it as is the normal procedure here. As she dialed in she was already thinking of getting home, showering and getting down to completing the TNA report she was working on for a client.
The lady on the phone put her on hold as she went to check on the results. Couple of minutes later, she returned to the line and candidly said, “Yes Ma’am, I have your results here; you have skin cancer!”  The car almost swerved off the road!
Of course she went on to say that it’s non-malignant called 'basal cell carcinoma' (a medical term for topical skin cancer caused by over exposure to the sun) that it does not spread, it’s very commonly found in the United States and certainly not life threatening. Of course she didn’t hear much of anything else after she had distinctly heard the taboo word - CANCER!

What followed in the coming weeks were speculations and assumptions, fear and worry! She began examining her body for any signs of other upcoming boils or cysts. The sun became her enemy and she resented having to go out in the day. In short; major stress! A small surgical procedure was required to scoop out the infected flesh. A date was set for the same. With each passing day her anxiety grew into a fearful monster.

Until a day before her friend casually gave her an option to look at it differently. He said, "I have a tattoo that I wish I could get rid of; just think of it as removing a tattoo gone wrong.” All of a sudden the word 'tattoo' didn’t have the same feelings attached to it as the taboo word did. It seemed palatable. More manageable!

All the way to the clinic she kept repeating the words in her head, “just a tattoo, just a tattoo”…the surgery was over even before she knew it.
As easy as that...what was all that fuss about?!

Notes from my desk: Sometimes certain words have a certain impact on us and leave us with feelings of anger, sadness, fear, hurt or guilt. This is because over the years we as humans have evolved to believe that x means y!

Being fit means being slim for most of us or being successful automatically means being wealthy to many. Similarly cancer equals to fatal eventualities or to some even death. We’ve just brought ourselves up to believe so. The meanings we draw depend on the words we use. Putting a positive spin on certain words can change its meaning and with it our responses and behaviors.

Reframing then is a sure shot step towards success. Changing the frame of an experience can have a major influence on how you perceive, interpret and react to that experience. I reframed my challenge to call it a tattoo that I just had to get rid of. And with the internal shift in emotions, my fear was replaced with strength and the chaos within with a more mature calm. I no longer have my tattoo. Just three stitches bearing the mark of what was… I chose to call it my smiley face, believe you me, it looks just like one! J


Friday, January 3, 2014

A luxury called, “I’ll do it tomorrow!”

She was never the one to notice the calendar. The dates on her calendar - always rolled. So much so that 24 hours were often insufficient before she could call it a day. Her days were always action packed! ‘Miles to go, before I sleep’ was her mantra for life and living as she raced ahead from one day to the next.
The tradition continued over this phase of life too. The need to fill in the day, make it wholesome, busy, fulfilling and constructive, was compelling and imperative. From the minute she woke up each day the agenda was tight. Over a quick breakfast she made a list of the daily chores. The newspaper stared at her through the corner of her eye. She quickly glanced at the headlines, and skimmed through the sports and entertainment sections. As she neatly folded it and put it back in its place, along with many others, she promised herself that one of these days she will get down to reading them all!  Habitually she jumped right into action!

Cooking was usually the first task of the day. As she wiped the kitchen top clean, the dishwasher beeped in completion of its cycle. Pots, pans and dishes went back in their place in mechanical precision. Her mind in the meanwhile was already thinking of the next items on the agenda! Emails to respond to, clients to follow up on, article submissions were piling up. “Well, let’s get on it,” she thought to herself as she walked over to the television and flicked it on. Some easy background banter always got her to work with more effectiveness as opposed to stiff silence. Surfing through the channels she excitedly stopped at one of them. They were playing her all-time favorite movie. She sat for a while to watch it, and then felt guilty for wasting time and hurriedly carried on to get the job done.
The day continued with the usual pile of laundry and ironing, a quick run around the block, a rushed bath, a speedy lunch followed by some more compulsive working. The clock kept pace with her while outside a beautiful day emptied itself on to the horizon of the night. Ironically though it still didn’t feel like a full enough day! Just not a fulfilling day! Disheartened she felt mentally and physically exhausted.

Right then her husband walked in, ritually hugged her and asked, “Wassup?! What did you do today?!” “Nothing, nothing much!” was the dejected reply.
That night though as she lay on her pillow she reflected….she reflected on what defines a wholesome, fulfilling or constructive day?! What more should I do? What am I not doing enough of? Perhaps then, she thought to herself, the question is, “What should I do differently”?

The next morning saw a new dawn as she woke up and lazed in bed a while. She leisurely sat with the newspaper over breakfast. Read it from front to back, just the way she liked to. As she pottered in the kitchen, cooking up a meal she played the radio and even sang along to a few tunes turning a regular morning into a Karaoke blast. That was fun! Later that morning, after her run, instead of dashing back home; she sat a while by the lake breathing in the fresh crisp air. Back home she caught up with urgent mail and thereafter ate lunch, cozy on the couch while watching a movie starring her favorite actors. And yes, there were moments when she felt a compelling urge to get up and work. She noticed the pile of clothes which needed to be folded, the kitchen shelves could do with a good dusting and work submissions glared at her from the desk nearby. Stubbornly she ignored it all….stuck in there and enjoyed a day with herself. Just for today she decided to do nothing at all! She read a chapter from a new book, sat on the porch with lemonade and later even opted to take a refreshing afternoon nap. She burned some incense, lit a few candles and bowed down in prayer at sun set. In this moment, she thanked the Lord with immense gratitude for a wonderful day.
Later that evening her husband walked in, ritually hugged her and asked, “What did you do today?!” “A lot, a whole lot!” was the pleased reply.

Notes from my desk: I have always been a person who wants to be one step ahead. To do lists have been an integral part of my life. What other better way to cope with this hectic, fast-paced, fractured and hurried world most of us live in?!

What’s more, most of us are conditioned to think this is the way life should be. Life should be lived at break-neck speed, we believe. We risk our lives in cars as we break the speed limit, rushing from one place to another. We do one thing after another, multi-tasking and switching between tasks as fast as we can blink. All in the name of productivity, of having more, of appearing busy, to ourselves and to others.

Why can’t we just live in this moment? Appreciate our life for what we have now?

In this fast paced world if life presents you with an opportunity to slow down… then grab it! Slow down! If not, then make the time….take the time to nourish yourself. Nourish your soul. Read a book. Watch a movie. Dance your heart out. Be a bathroom singer. Go for a long peaceful walk. Sit in silence. Meditate. Pray. Be happy with and within yourself..... Just breathe! Today I chose to do just that!